Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Tanzania: A Day of Gratitude!

Today we did our last distribution of 600 bedkits at Tungi Primary School about 30 minutes south of Dar es Salaam.  Each distribution day we headed south at 7 AM and crossed the bay using a car ferry which let us witness the hustle and bustle of the various vendors along the route, the fish market near the ferry terminal and the thousands of commuters going in either direction on the ferry.  Everyone is very busy doing what they can to provide for their families.

On arrival at Tungi, the children already had their assembly and were beginning their classes while others were getting ready for their bedkit distribution.  Being on our fifth day, everyone executed their assigned roles of the day very quickly.  Our team lead Doug even got in some bubble time to the delight of the kids and the parents.

After Carol briefed the parents on the contents of the bedkits, who clapped in gratitude at each item, the distribution commenced and was completed with many happy faces throughout the process.

We took a group picture of all the folks from Mama Wandoa’s team as well as ourselves with the last recipient of a bedkit today.

After a small celebration with the complete support team consisting of watermelon and soft drinks, heart-felt thank you speeches were given from both sides and after some hugs and Tanzanian handshakes, we said our good byes.  The support of our Tanzanian Overseas Partner Organization of Upendo Information and Counselling Centre could not have done more to help us ensure that the bedkits were of excellent quality and efficiently distributed.

As this was our first SCAW distribution experience for Carol and me, it was a real pleasure to be with Doug MacDougald and Gary Jewitt, two very experienced SCAW travel volunteers, who showed us and coached us on how to best do the various tasks that needed to be done.  Our whole very positive learning experience, was done in a very gentle and patient manner.  We shared many laughing moments which was very helpful as the situation that you find yourself in can be very heartbreaking, especially when you do the home visits.

Given the great need that exists wherever SCAW does distributions, it can be overwhelming as you want to help everyone and can’t!  It reminded me of a short film clip that I saw where a man was running on the beach and would stop now and then to pick up something and throw it into the water.  A person watching the runner do this stopped him and asked what he was doing.  The runner said that he was picking up starfish left high and dry on the beach and threw them back in the water to help them out.  The man pointed out to the runner that there were thousands of starfish stranded on the beach and asked him what difference it made to throw one back.  The runner picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea.  He then looked at the man and said, “It makes a difference to this one!” and continued on his run.  I feel that is what we do with our bedkit distributions…helping one child at a time.  We are very grateful to be a part of this distribution and look forward to participating in the future.

…for the children,
Joep Diening for Team Tanzania 2017B 
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Tanzania: Under the Mango Tree

Today we travelled to the Kibada Primary School, about 45 minutes south of Dar es Salaam.  It being Day Four, the SCAW Team plus our Overseas Volunteer Partner worked closely together, like a well-oiled machine, to set up the first group photo to 142 children made possible by one generous donor by capturing all these eager children in one picture.

As you can imagine, it can be a challenge to organize all these children in one group all facing the same way at one time.  However, the children were so well behaved and cooperative that it was a lot of fun to get them ready for the shot.  The result is below.

When the contents of the bedkits were explained to the parents, they all cheered and clapped in appreciation for all the items that their children were about to receive in the bedkit.  For the remainder of the 448 bedkits that were left to distribute, we were able to use a magnificent mango tree for shade with the one of the school classrooms as backdrop.  This mango tree had a plethora of roots emanating from the trunk above the ground in a circle that supported this tree in all its glory.

It was a lot of fun to distract the children with bubbles, action songs and cheers.  The children really responded well and helped to bring out their beautiful smiles as you can see from some of the pictures.

In all, another 600 bedkits went home with families that fully appreciated them and will put them to good use starting tonight.  The mosquito net and mattress were the most popular items in the bedkit as the children would be more protected from the malaria mosquito carriers.  It is a wonderful sight to see the families heading home in the distance with their colourful mattresses on their heads and their backpacks on their back which will help them face the challenges of everyday living.

Carol Diening for SCAW Tanzania Team 2017B member
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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Tanzania: A Quiet Day

These are pictures taken this morning at Magomeni Mviringo Lutheran Church in Dar es Salaam, where beautiful voice choirs and musical instruments filled the air in welcome and throughout the service.  Church starts at 7 AM and the service goes on for four hours. 

During the service, Mama Wandoa brought us to the front of the church and explained what we were doing and our team lead, Doug, said a few words in reply.  Everyone was so very welcoming!

After visiting the children in their Sunday schools places, we did very little shopping and went to lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful view.. and this afternoon we relaxed, did some writing and did some of the administration in support of Sleeping Children Around the World and our distribution in Tanzania.

...for the children,
Joep Diening for Team Tanzania B 2017
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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Tanzania: Day Off

When you work hard as a team on distribution day, you also get a chance to relax as a team as we did today on our ferry trip to Zanzibar, consisting of two main islands and many smaller ones off shore from Tanzania. 

Prior to April 1964, it was known as the Republic of Zanzibar at a time when Tanzania was called Tanganyika.  In April 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania.  

Our visit focused on Stone Town and spice farms.

Slave Trade Museum
The island of Zanzibar was the main shipment point for slaves being shipped mainly to the middle east – 4.5 million is the estimated total! We visited a museum that detailed how the trade worked. Pictured here is the monument that commemorates the slave trade as well as an abolitionist poster used in Britain leading up to the treaty ending slave trading in 1873.

Fish Market
Fresh fish rules this island’s cuisine and at the fish market the rule seemed clear, “sell it or smell it.”

And so, the familiar cadence of the auctioneer was immediately apparent as customers gathered around the raised cement platform and bid – but it was subtle; no hand signals, nods anywhere but the end result was the same with the fish sold.

What a choice of fish, including a big sting ray being dragged in off a truck for the auction block.

It must be a long day out early to catch and then tend to the stall – this guy was out cold and looking pretty comfy as well.

…and tonight, for dinner – some of us had lamb!

The visit was a great way to relax for a day as a team and learn a little about some of the local history as well as the what drives the local economy: spices, raffia and tourism.

And in support of life balance while doing the work of Sleeping Children Around the World, we had a great relaxing and informative day.

For the children,
Doug MacDougald, Gerry Jewitt, Carol and Joep Diening
Team Tanzania 2017B
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Tanzania: Smiling Children!

Our 600 bedkit distribution was an hour south of Dar es Salaamin at Gezaulole. The school site was nicely shaded and open and we hit a home run starting with 2 large groups of 57 kids thanks to donations from my good friend Walter Heuser and my Mom and Dad. My folks give one bedkit for every child, grandchild and great-grandchild – and the number will be 60 next year – and you never know, maybe more?

The home run started with the large groups which are always fun to do and the kids really like yelling Merry Christmas Mom and Dad! I think my parents will like the video!

The rest of the 600 bedkit distribution was just more fun with the kids organized very close to where our team was set up so they could see what was going on with lots of interaction.

Which leads to the smiling children theme – the kids had fun and showed it in the bedkit photos –  and really showed it after the process was over and we were hanging out with the kids. Selfies, thumb fights, showing kids pictures of themselves - just having a good time together.

I would seem to me kids are kids no matter their social economic position is in this world.

Doug MacDougald for Team Tanzania B 2017 
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Friday, 10 November 2017

Tanzania: Home Visits

Being part of a SCAW team includes doing home visits to the children's homes from previous distributions and the current one. It involves observing how the kit has lasted after use and the possibilities of any improvements. This, being my first experience, it was overwhelming emotionally.

Today we got the privilege to visit a home where a child had received a bedkit. It was a very small two room, dirt floor, mud brick dwelling that housed a least 11 people. The mother, in order to help feed the family, broke up stones into smaller pieces with a hammer to sell for making cement. She appears to be managing except for the fact her thatched roof had various places where it would leak when rain falls. One leak in particular was in the small room with a mud floor where the children sleep!!!

I felt overwhelmed with emotion that a woman struggling so hard to look after her children still had to cope with such a major problem that could be so easily fixed. She has asked her neighbour for help so let's hope that it comes soon. 

She has one big blessing in that she lives right next door to the school. Lots of children live hours away and there are no school buses. In the cities only 5 children are allowed on the buses at once because they pay less so there are long waits at the bus stops.

For this family, having one little boy with a clean mattress that he can share with his brothers and sisters as well as a mosquito net that would be able to cover the room the size of a double bed, is one small step in helping this family improve their lives. We are so thankful to Mamma Wandoa, her daughter Wendy and all  The Oversea Volunteer Partners for helping us talk to the children and their families to share their life situations. Without them it would be more difficult to understand their life situations and how Sleeping Children Around the World can make a difference.

Carol Diening for Team Tanzania 2017
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Tanzania: Very Successful Day!

Today we had a successful distribution in Buyini a village about 1 hour out of Dar es Salaam.One of the bed kit donors was of particular interest to me.They were donated by my friends Harolyn & Frank from Toronto who had given 60 bedkits to friends on the occasion of their 60th anniversary.What a great idea!

Happy children ready to receive their bed kits.This was a big day for them all!

Our team also had the opportunity to visit 2 homes that had received bedkits on earlier distributions.This was an eye opening testament to the value placed on your donations to SCAW. 

A very successful day in Tanzania .

Gary for Team Tanzania 2017
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Tanzania: First Distribution Day!

Today we got up very early to be ready for a 7 AM departure from Dar es Salaam to a school situated at Vumilia Ukooni, about a 90-minute ride to the south. We took the ferry across Dar es Salaam harbor and saw many people travelling by ferry, car, motorbike, bike, and walking to the various places they were going. The streets were full of stalls ready to sell and the fish market located close to the ferry terminal was full of the buyers and sellers of fish. This is a very alive city!

Enroute we noticed that there is a lot of construction going all over and around the Dar es Salaam area. There were many building projects visible from small houses to large apartment type buildings, all made out of cement and concrete bricks. As we drove to the school, we passed a multitude of small, alongside the road cement brick-making places manned by two or three men using a simple brick mold machine and stacking the finished brick alongside the road.

With the recent rains producing very challenging ruts in the road as well as driving through some significant puddles, our driver, David, has been keeping us safe since he met us at the airport and got us to the school around 8:30 AM this morning. In preparation for today’s distribution, the staff at the school with the help of our overseas volunteer partner headed by Mama Wandoa, made sure that the parents of the selected children knew how important it was to be at the school with their children for the bedkit distribution. When we pulled in with our vehicle, they were all there, waiting with much anticipation.

Patiently waiting
On arrival, we saw all 600 hundred colourful mattresses piled high on tarps as well as the two sizes of bedkits that would be handed out (small or large for the girls and boys). The area was already roped off and the parents sat on the ground, waiting patiently with some of the smaller, pre-school children sitting with them. We took a little time to select the best site for taking the pictures of the children receiving the bed kits given the contrasting bright sun and shadows. Each of the children would be given a t-shirt and shorts as part of the bedkit prior to their picture being taken which required the use of two classrooms as change rooms.

Carol Diening, Doug MacDougald, Mama Wandoa

As we looked at the classrooms, we noticed that they consisted of a large room, covered with a sheet metal roof, a painted blackboard on one wall, no electricity and very limited resources. The windows had no glass in them, and let in the natural light so that they could see. There were also some holes in the sheet metal roofs. The resources available to the teachers appeared quite limited and classes could have more than 100 children in them. There are no lack of challenges to educating the children. Having as good night’s rest on a mattress underneath a mosquito net should help.

Prior to the start of the actual distribution, our team lead, Doug MacDougald, with the help of Mama Wandoa as interpreter, explained what the bedkits were all about and where we came from to the total delight of the parents as they cheered when they saw each item that made up the bedkit.

Gary Jewitt with some of the Children
With the help of many volunteers, the flow of getting each of the children changed into their new clothes, their picture taken and handed a bedkit is quite the challenge, including keeping track of them and making sure that no one would be missed. Given the heat and high humidity, we also wanted to make sure that the children and their parents would not have to wait too long.

Over the space of about three hours, we managed to hand out all 600 bed kits scheduled for distribution today and packed our gear ready for the next activity: a home visit to see how well the bedkits handed out previously were standing up.

As we left the school, it was very gratifying to see the parents and their children walking in all directions with their bedkits backpack on their back and carrying their new mattress on their head. For some, the walk home is more than an hour.

Going Home!
On arrival at the home of a family of seven in accommodation consisting of several very small rooms made of sticks and mud and covered with a thatch roof, we saw a previously distributed bedkit being used and supportive of the child that received it.

These very humble living quarters help put in context how receiving a bedkit is so very much appreciated by the family and making a difference.

After the home visit, we made our way back to our apartment, taking in the sights of the myriad of stalls selling their wares in all sorts of places, sitting in traffic jams and bouncing over rutted roads. These trips really make you feel alive. And thanks to the many donors who are so very supportive of SCAW, we all continue to make a difference in the lives of those families working hard to give their children the best education available to them and getting a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow morning, we start again at 7 AM.

More to come…For the Children

Joep Diening on behalf of SCAW Team Tanzania 2017 B
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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Tanzania: Welcome to Tanzania!

Due to the generosity of donors supportive of Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW), another 3,000 bedkits were funded and will be distributed in Tanzania between November 8 & 15, 2017.  Team Tanzania 2017 B, consisting of Doug MacDougald, team lead and members Gary Jewitt, Carol and Joep Diening, travelled to Dar es Salaam and were met at the airport by Mama Wandoa, Wendy Aaron and her son Jerome who are members of our Overseas Partner Volunteers group, Upendo Information and Counselling Centre.

Doug MacDougald, Gary Jewitt, Carol Diening, 
Mama Wandoa, Joep Diening

Travelling from Toronto took us around 17 hours flying time over the day and a half of travel to get to Dar es Salaam, a large city with a population of about 5 ½ million people.  Given that Dar es Salaam is about 420 miles south of the equator and on the shores of the Indian ocean, the climate is fairly consistent: hot and humid with almost even hours of daylight and night.

Today was our day to get organized for tomorrow’s start of the distribution of 600 bed kits.  We visited one of the companies that supplies bedkit materials for the children as part of the audit process to ensure that the high quality of the bed kits is maintained.  UNOPLAST (T) Ltd under the name BANCO makes the mattresses for the children and has been doing so for the last 16 of 17 years that SCAW has done bedkit distributions in Tanzania.  They showed us how and where the mattresses are made and the materials used.  We also met some of the folks doing the hard work.  Company owner and management personnel, Davesh Dave and Deepak Desai were very proud of the company’s involvement and are very supportive of SCAW.  They sell the mattresses that they make to SCAW at cost, provide free transportation of the mattresses to the distribution site and provide some of the labour handling the mattresses.  And the quality of the mattresses has proven over the years to be excellent.

Gary Jewitt, Deepak Desai, Mama Wandoa, Carol Diening, 
Joep Diening, Davesh Dave, Doug MacDougald
We next visited a cottage industry site, where the shorts and skirts that are part of the Tanzanian bed kit are made.  The majority of the bed kit materials are locally sourced which provides both employment and economic benefit within the community.

Cottage Industry Personnel Making Shorts and Skirts for Bedkits

This evening we held our team meeting in preparation for tomorrow’s first full day of distribution.  We feel ready and should be fully rested when we get up early to start the day.  More to come…..

Joep Diening for Team Tanzania 2017
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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Honduras: Rotoract's Last Day of Distribution & Pajama Day!!

The amazing rotoracts hosted the last day of distribution, by focusing on the SCAW mandate of getting a good night's sleep by coming to work in their pajamas! Some of the team members joined in the fun by wearing their pj's as well! The rotoracts outdid themselves again with their great work ethic and wonderful interaction with the young recipients. At the conclusion of the distribution, the rotoracts presented the team members with a gift of a picture of them in action, as well as a beautiful candle crafted in Honduras. We will remember fondly our 2 weeks spent with these wonderful young people distributing 5000 bed kits!!!

Signing off from Honduras!!
Team Honduras 2017
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Friday, 25 August 2017

Honduras: By the Numbers in Honduras

Tonight we were invited to the Rotarians' weekly meeting. The main agenda was to discuss Sleeping Children's history and success in Honduras. And what a success it has been! To date,  over 2.5 million dollars (US) has been donated and over 77 000 bed kits have been distributed to needy Honduran children. 

At the end of the night, the SCAW travelling volunteers received a certificate of appreciation from the Rotarians. 

Team Honduras 2017
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Thursday, 24 August 2017

Honduras: Bouncing Along With A Smile!!

So many happy children bouncing out of the schoolyard with their new bedkits! We all want to thank our donors for bringing smiles to so many faces. Here are a few of the kids you have helped get a good night’s sleep. 

We were able to visit the homes of four children who received bedkits last year. The bedkit items were being used, and the families were happy to show us their home. It was a bumpy dirt road and a steep hike to get there, but we were all glad to be given the opportunity to get a closer perspective on the home life of the children. 

Team Tanzania 2017
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